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Committee report falls short of vital rural exemption

The Communities and Local Government select committee released its second report of evidence on housing associations and the right to buy yesterday (10 February). The report focuses on the voluntary agreement between Government and housing associations on extending the right to buy to housing association tenants.

With just 8% of housing in the countryside considered affordable in contrast to 20% in urban areas, we welcome the report’s acknowledgement that more needs to be done to identify areas with particularly low numbers of rural affordable homes. It is also welcome to see the report raise questions around restrictions on the resale of properties, and to see that it shows concern for the potential absence of socially rented accommodation amongst the replacement ‘affordable’ homes.

At the same time the report stops short of calling for a full rural exemption in its recommendations. John Rowley, planning officer at the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), comments:

“It is welcome that the committee has recognised the lack of genuinely affordable housing in rural areas and emphasised how an extended right to buy could further restrict access to homes. Equally, its recommendations should go further by explicitly calling for a full rural exemption.

“The committee argues that landowners who sell land cheaply for affordable housing in perpetuity should be protected, and that a ‘formal rural exemption’ would help to reassure them that any new homes will not be subject to right to buy. Exempting land with restrictive covenants from right to buy could help with some sites, but without a full rural exemption genuinely affordable homes in rural areas will be lost through the voluntary agreement.

“The Housing Bill must be rural proofed if we want to see thriving rural communities. We will continue to work with a wide range of rural stakeholders to encourage Government to make sure rural affordable homes are protected.”

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